Motel Bel-Air

Dad pulls up in the Rambler, and
we see the sign first: POOL – COLOR TV.
Darkness fills the edges of the parking lot.
My brother and I plan to live up
to the promise of that sign. No trunks,
but some shorts Mom had packed for the next day.
She wearily agrees. Later, from the zero gravity
of turquoise-lit night water, I see Dad’s
cigarette lit like an orange rocket as he blows
white smoke skyward, sitting slumped in a plastic chair.Read More »

Clark Kent

The decision as to what your career is to be is a very deep and important one,
and it has to do with something like a spiritual requirement and commitment.
– 
Joseph Campbell

As I grow older, I see this as his greatest feat:
balancing the day job with his career as superhero.Read More »

What We Gain in Translation

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Epigram from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot,
originally from Dante’s Inferno, canto xxvii

i)
forgiveness for the language:
scratches for the trouble of trying
to arrive at the same place by a different way
when the first way was also choked with thorns.Read More »

Insufficient Tranquility

When will the surface still?
When will the fire die,
When will we scrape the wound clean,
When will things be the same again?

The last one is done for you. Ask
the mothers and fathers, ask
the widows, sit
on the chintz sofa, touch
the son under glass, see
the faded picture look
back from years,
wonder if,
wonder when,
wonder why.

See it written, not large,
but small over and over and over,
One Size Fits All.

When we complete
a dark circle, kill
to stop the killing
(assume we succeed),
those who wave giddy
little plastic flags of
welcome home
will be those who
have someone
to come home to.

written in 2001, days after 9/11, and not edited since.

Jane Hathaway 1985

She smokes the last cigarette of the day,
puts down her Jane Austen.
Another sore-feet day at the credit union,
returning to the apartment complex at Melrose
she shares with a handful of randy kids.

Too late, she appreciates the quixotic honor
of men like Clampett. The headline read:
Bodine, Heir to Fortune, Takes All to Chase.
Drysdale Ruined in smaller print, and she with him.

Drysdale lies at Forest Lawn, not at the bank now,
last in a line of unremarkable graves:
Granny, old age; Jed, city living;
Ellie May, drowned in the cement pond;
Drysdale, by the .38 he kept in his desk.
She saw him dead that afternoon, went to lunch
and never returned.

written about 2000, revised recently

This is My Last Poem

because I’m sick of my own voice,
tired of selling you my life, nauseous
from listening to you (and me).
I’m exhausted from talking to God. Listen:

I just got off the phone. My friend’s latest
manic phase resulted in God talking back.
His mother said that “while this was delusional,
the religious experience was real.”
Excuse me, but I can’t tell the difference
any more. When my friend hung up I listened
to the dial tone for awhile.

first written around 2004. And no, it wasn’t.

Convenience

Years passed. I drove by that brick two-story store
somewhere between Demopolis and Camden.
One day I went inside. A pile of boxes on the floor,
Day’s Work tobacco strewn on shelving.

The old man at the plywood counter had a grudge
saved up against the day that I would come,
an unloved uncle criticizing roads I’d traveled;
a hand-lettered cardboard sign: CASH ONLY.

Still, it was somewhere. When I stop at a BP
I think of geometry learned years ago:
intersections at the bridge at I-20 and Hwy. 43
occupying no space, existing only in the abstract.

I agree to the terms of my cardholder agreement
made in the state of Michigan.
A clerk and I wait for a modem to awake in Texas.
Two ripples in a stream of commerce; neither here nor there.

I’ve edited it somewhat, but I first wrote this around 1998.